night lightI’m not sure if it would be fair to say that night-reading modes that block sleep-depriving blue and green light frequencies is a fad, but it certainly seems to be popular lately. (Perhaps the research study that came out last month recommending it has something to do with it.)

I’ve written about applications like F.lux that do it for desktops, and Paul has covered Amazon’s new “Blue Shade” mode for the Fire a couple of times. (It’s kind of misnamed, in my opinion, given that it turns your tablet more of an orange shade, but Amazon doesn’t consult me about what it names things.) Now TechCrunch reports that Google is joining the party, adding a new feature called “Night Light” to its Google Play Books e-reading app.

Night Light works effectively like the other applications I’ve mentioned–it gradually turns your screen an amber-orange shade, so as to bombard your eyes with less of that blue light that messes with your sleep cycles. It will be included in the latest update of the Play Books app for Android and iOS, and will prompt you to activate it the first time you launch the new version.

I wonder why Google stuck this in Play Books, instead of making it a function of the operating system like Amazon, or a separate app like the Twilight app I use on my regular Android smartphone. Are they thinking that, since Amazon markets its Fire as an e-reader first and foremost, they should concentrate on their own e-reading app? It’s interesting to speculate as to Google’s reasoning.

As many different variations of Android as there are out there, they probably couldn’t be sure to get it to everyone right away. Maybe they think people wouldn’t want an orange haze over everything–and if they do, there are already apps like Twilight out there they could use. Perhaps they think e-reading is the activity most likely to keep people staring at the screen for long periods of time, so they figured it would be a good idea to focus on that. In an e-reading app, the orange overlay would just seem to be another “theme,” like the white-on-black or parchment themes some e-reading apps use.

There’s also the fact that Google Play Books is also available for iOS, and iOS can’t use blue-blocking apps because its development rules prohibit accessing that part of the operating system. (F.lux attempted to put a version of its app out for iOS, but Apple forced them to yank it.) So putting it in Play Books is the only way they could make it available at all on iOS.

Whatever the reason, it’s interesting to see the blue-blocking pop up in another new spot. I wonder how many other device or app manufacturers will incorporate it. It might be nice if Apple built it into iOS, since they’re clearly not going to allow anyone else to do it.


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